I'm seriously seeking DSL in our south Salem neighborhood, now that I've tasted the faster broadband life at our cabin in Camp Sherman. Yes, Camp Sherman, a hamlet of several hundred full-time residents in central Oregon that is as beautiful as it is isolated.
Five miles from Highway 20. Ten more miles to Sisters, the nearest town of consequence. Yet one of our cabin co-owners just arranged to have Qwest DSL installed.
So now when we're in Camp Sherman I can sit down with my laptop, facing Ponderosas and the Metolius River, out in the middle of nowhere, connecting to the Internet at about twice the speed of my WildBlue satellite service here in Salem at about half the cost.
What gives? I've written before about my frustrations with Qwest. Three years ago a supervisor told me they could get DSL to our area, but they weren't going to, even though we've just five miles from the Salem city limits and two miles from the nearest existing DSL "crossbox."
Wouldn't pencil out, I was told. "Well," I thought (and still think), "isn't Qwest a public utility? Doesn't this mean that it should serve the public? Or am I expecting too much?"
Recently I asked someone in Camp Sherman how they were able to get DSL. I was told that at first the Qwest attitude was "you will never see it." Sounds familiar. However, a flurry of calls were made to the "proper politicians" and some area businesses testified to how much they needed broadband.
After that, gosh, the technical problems that supposedly made DSL an impossibility in Camp Sherman went away. That gave me hope for our neighborhood, since we're a whole lot closer to DSL civilization than Camp Sherman was.
So a few days ago I optimistically dialed the number on one of the innumerable ads we get from Qwest inviting us to sign up for DSL.
It rings. I'm asked to press "1" for English. I do. Then the line goes dead. After a while a voice tells me, "If you want to make a call, please hang up and try again." Not an auspicious start to my communications with what's supposed to be a communications company.
Second time I reach an actual human being. But not the right one. She gives me another number to call. Now I get someone who seems concerned about our plight. I tell my tale about how I have DSL in Camp Sherman, but not in south Salem. I tell him that a couple of years ago I was informed that DSL was technically feasible to install in our area. The stumbling block was cost.
Yet somehow Camp Sherman got around that roadblock. "So," I said, "I'd like to plead our case to someone in Qwest who makes DSL decisions." I could easily get dozens of neighbors, including a bunch of home-based businesses, to send cards and letters to Qwest, since there are more people living nearby than in all of Camp Sherman.
I was put on hold. The guy needed to talk to a supervisor. After five minutes or so he came back on the line. "No way will you get DSL," he said. "It'd cost a million dollars to install." He told me that I should get my neighbors to go to the Qwest web site and request to be notified when DSL is available in our area.
Which would evidently be never. Since I'd already asked members of our neighborhood association to do that back in 2004, I figured that going through the exercise again would be as useless as it was then.
My next bright idea was to phone the Salem Center retail Qwest store. I couldn't find any other Salem number for Qwest, which clearly isn't big on letting customers talk to local employees. For when Brandi returned my voice mail message, she said that she'd have to talk with DSL-knowledgeable Sam in Vancouver, Washington.
I couldn't talk with Sam directly. But she'd ask him my questions about why we didn't have DSL and let me know Sam's answers. Those, in brief, turned out to be "too far away" and "load coils."
I'm still trying to talk with Sam, because this smells much more like a brush off than a definitive technical answer. Three years ago I was able to speak with a DSL installer and he told me it'd be simple to get DSL out to us. It'd just require some equipment upgrades.
Meaning, Qwest would have to spend some money to improve service in our neighborhood. Again, not an unreasonable thing to do for a public utility.
A little Googling confirmed my cynicism about Qwest's stonewalling. I learned that "load coils" is a common phone company explanation for why DSL isn't available in an area. These thingies improve voice quality at the expense of frequencies where DSL functions.
They have to be removed before DSL will work. OK, then remove them. If I ever get to talk with Sam, I'll ask him why this can't be done.
Apparently a modern switch can replace old load coils. However, an acquaintance who works for Comcast and seems to know what he's talking about told me that many Qwest phone lines are horribly outdated. He said this is why Qwest hasn't been a takeover target. They haven't invested in equipment upgrades, so no other company wants to buy this technological dinosaur.
I don't know if that's true. And I sure don't know much about load coils. Still, my good friend Google taught me that there's something called a Smart Coil which replaces load coils. A Smart Coil lets you have fine voice quality and DSL if you live quite a ways out, like we do.
My hope is that somebody will read this post who either (1) is a Qwest employee who can tell me how to break into the company's DSL installation decision-making loop, or (2) knows someone who has this information.
I don't think Brandi is high enough up in the Qwest management food chain. She's going to keep giving me the company party line: "too far away" and "load coils."
Qwest's CEO, Richard Notebaert, looks like a nice guy. Maybe he reads blog posts about his company. If so, I just want to say that I'm waiting for DSL, Richard. Still waiting. With my Lucy Liu Qwest fantasy intact.
Give me a call. I'd love to chat with you. You have my number.
I'm sure you really want to hear this, I asked for and got Qwest DSL in 4 days in Baker City, OR. We actually are in the middle of nowhere.
Posted by: Chuck Butcher | August 04, 2007 at 11:13 PM
We live way beyond any hope for DSL but got the dish (HughesNet today) as soon as it became available and mostly are happy campers. It's not quite as fast as DSL but it for the most part (nothing in computers is for always) is trouble free, fast, and works dependably.
Posted by: Rain | August 07, 2007 at 08:13 AM
I am having the same problems with getting DSL in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Qwest is not responsive, they do not care and the nearest DSL line is only 1/8 of a mile away yet they have no interest in putting in any DSL.they also do not respond to any questions and in fact deny that they have any public hearings on this or any other subject.
I worked in Afghanistan and have DSL there in a war zone but in this third wold of Qwest, I cannot get anything.
Posted by: James Hellerman | November 27, 2007 at 02:58 PM
I have been experiencing the exact same problems with Qwest recently. I live in the mountains of Colorado where Qwest is the only provider available. 1/2 mile both North and South of our neighborhood have DSL through Qwest. Perhaps the most frustrating part about my situation is that I stopped and spoke with a Qwest field technician today around the corner from my house (our closest 'switch') where he was installing a T-1 for a neighbor of mine that was willing to pay $400+/mo for the service. The technician informed me that there was fiber running to that switch and that there are plenty of open 'fiber T-1 slots' available to provide the necessary backbone to make DSL available our neighborhood. The technician also informed me that there were over 150 active customers at the switch where he was working. Perhaps I'm wrong but it sure seems to me that 150+ potential DSL subscribers would be plenty of customers to spend the money and make the necessary switch upgrades.
I have spoken with numerous Qwest representatives over the last few years which never get me anywhere. I continually receive the same message "DSL is not available at your location." Why does it seem that no employee of Qwest has any knowledge of who can actually answer my questions? Today I was able to get our regional systems engineer on the phone to ask him my questions. He responded by telling me he would look into it and then return a call to me this afternoon - surprise, surprise he never returned a call.
As a former regional manager for a national contractor for Comcast I understand how difficult it is to get anything accomplished with a large company such as Qwest. However - with a bit of persistence I was always able to get in contact with someone whom was able to help me escalate my issues to get a straightforward answer to any of my questions. This sure does not seem to be the case with Qwest.
If anyone out there has made any progress in a similar situation – PLEASE let us know how you approached the situation. Good luck to the rest of you battling similar situations-
Posted by: hcpc | April 30, 2008 at 04:56 PM
hcpc, in another post on this subject I described how I got DSL to our neighborhood: by writing the Qwest CEO directly. See:
A link to the letter I wrote is in the post. You could try doing the same thing. Worth a try, at least. The CEO (whose name I'm blanking out on) took over last year, I believe.
I'm quite sure that this did the trick, because when the local DSL manager called me, one of the first things he said was "I understand you wrote our CEO about your situation."
Methinks all it took was an email, or whatever, from someone high up in the Qwest food chain and suddenly our impossible to get DSL became possible.
Posted by: Brian | May 01, 2008 at 11:36 AM